Car accidents can cause a wide variety of injuries to occupants of the vehicles involved in the crash. Whiplash is one of the injuries that accident victims frequently suffer. Whiplash injuries can be quite serious and may cause victims considerable pain and discomfort for an extended period. Whiplash is often the result of a rear-end collision, although the injury can occur in virtually any type of auto accident.
How Whiplash Happens
A whiplash injury happens when the neck is thrown backward and then forward with great force. Approximately 3 million people suffer whiplash each year. Car crashes are the most common cause of a whiplash injury, with rear-end collisions being the type of auto accident that most often involves whiplash. A whiplash injury can, and often does, occur even in low-speed crashes that result in little or no damage to the vehicles involved. There is little correlation between the speed of the crash and the severity of a whiplash injury. Even a 5mph crash can produce 10-12 g acceleration of an occupant’s head, which is more than sufficient to cause a whiplash injury. Although the spine is very flexible, it can be stretched beyond its limit. To understand how a whiplash injury occurs, imagine what happens when someone cracks a whip. The whip arches back and then flies forward rapidly. That is what happens to the neck when whiplash occurs. The extreme force exerted on the head causes the muscles and ligaments located inside the neck and throughout the spine to be stretched beyond their normal range of flexion. Once flexed beyond their limit, the muscles and ligaments can become damaged.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Because of the nature of a whiplash injury, a victim often does not feel any immediate symptoms. This happens for much the same reason that you often do not feel pain or tenderness the same day that you complete a rigorous workout at the gym – it takes your body 24-48 hours to fully process the damage and pain. Many whiplash injuries are considered to be mild to moderate. However, a whiplash injury can be serious and can cause a tremendous amount of pain.
Symptoms of a whiplash injury include:
- Neck pain, soreness or stiffness
- Ringing in the ears
- Inability to sleep
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Balance problems
It is important to remember that any damage to the neck, back or spine can cause serious, life-threatening injuries. Moreover, because many spine injuries, including whiplash, do not present obvious symptoms immediately after a collision, a victim should always accept transport to a hospital if available for a thorough medical examination. If immediate transport is not an option, be sure to have a complete physical examination done as soon as possible after the accident. Not only is it beneficial to begin treatment for a whiplash injury as soon as possible after an accident, but a complete medical examination should be done to rule out a more serious injury to the spine.
Treatments for Whiplash
A whiplash injury will usually require a period of immobilization to prevent any further damage. Medical providers may encourage a victim to begin moving the affected area shortly after the injury to avoid the muscles and ligaments’ becoming weak, stiff or atrophying. After that, pain medication and/or muscle relaxers may be prescribed, as well as physical therapy. Steroids and local anesthesia may also be used. For most victims of a whiplash injury, the symptoms will begin to disappear with conservative treatment in a few weeks to a few months. In about 10 percent of all whiplash injuries, symptoms may continue, or even worsen, without any apparent cause. For these victims, more aggressive forms of treatment may be needed.
Getting a Settlement for a Whiplash Injury
If you have suffered whiplash in a car accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. It’s important to talk with a lawyer who has significant experience in South Carolina personal injury law. The Louthian Law Firm can help victims pursue a whiplash settlement. We’re committed to providing excellent, personalized service and the best results for our clients. Call us today toll free at 803-592-6231 for a free evaluation of your case. You can also fill out our online contact form.